Helping Others Through Discouragement
Every one of us gets discouraged from time to time. Some of us get discouraged often. In a fallen world, life can be hard.
- Relationships go sour.
- Jobs are lost.
- Our dreams get shattered.
- Our friends and loved ones die.
- Our health can be fragile.
- Our bank accounts run dry.
And in the midst of life’s hardships, it is easy for discouragement to set in. How can we help each other fight discouragement as brothers and sisters in Christ? I want to offer a few strategies that we can all employ to be faithful spiritual friends for one another.
WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP
A friend of mine likes to say, “Shared sorrow is endurable sorrow.” Discouragement grows in isolation.
One of the most important ways we can love a discouraged brother or sister is to listen with compassion and empathy. Don’t feel the need to rush in quickly with words. Before we even attempt to speak into their lives, we should ask ourselves, “Have we done our best to really feel what they feel?” To do this well, ask questions like:
- “What are you feeling right now?”
- “What is the most difficult aspect of this?” or
- “If Jesus were sitting here with us right now, how would you describe your discouragement to him?”
LISTEN FOR THE PERSON’S HEART
When we listen to another person who’s experiencing trouble, we often immediately begin thinking of the advice we should give them. We want to fix the problem and move on.
But when a person shares discouragement with you, see it as an opportunity to connect deeply with and understand another image bearer. What thought patterns do you hear? What desires are going unmet? How is this person experiencing the trouble they are facing? Are they sad? Are they angry? Are they fearful? Do they feel regret, guilt, or shame?
Discouragement can be a mixture of a number of ingredients, so listen carefully for what is feeding this particular person’s discouragement.
SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul urges us to “encourage the fainthearted.” Having listened well and empathized with our discouraged friend, we best encourage them when we speak the encouraging truths of God’s Word to one another’s hearts.
God’s Word is filled with promises to the fearful, to those who are brokenhearted, and to those who feel regret, guilt, and shame.
Remind them what is true of our God, and what is true of us who are in Christ.
- “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
- “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
- “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31b-32).
Don’t feel like you have to quote a verse. You are free to paraphrase and speak directly to your discouraged friend.
A couple years ago, a friend was discouraged about giving in to a particular sin on a regular basis. One evening, I texted him and simply wrote, “In Christ you are empowered to say no to sin and yes to God. I am praying for you.” When I saw him the next day, he reported that God used those words to resist temptation and to honor Christ that particular evening. The simple truths of God’s Word are powerful.
So empathize with the discouraged. Listen well for their heart. And having listened and empathized, speak the living and active Word of God to encourage the fainthearted.
Jeff serves on the Community Team as the Pastor of Soul Care. Having previously spent two years as a College Park Pastoral Resident, Jeff returns to College Park after working as a Professor of Biblical Counseling & Equipping at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis. Prior to that position, Jeff worked as a Campus Minister at Cornell University.
Jeff is passionate about equipping God’s people for compassionate, Christ-centered, one-another care. He and his wife Kristen have four children: Benjamin, David, Abigail, and Luke.